CANCELLED - Ethnography and Political Science

Course content

Ethnographic research is gaining grounds in political science. Doing fieldwork and analysing various qualitative materials is (finally) becoming an acceptable way of studying power relations. That is, at least to scholars of political science.


Political science students, on the other hand, largely refrain from ethnography. While some worry about fending for their practice and underlying methodological standpoint, others find themselves lacking the practical tools to engage with this interpretivist-qualitative method.


This course is an extended hand to those interested in learning (more) about conducting and writing up ethnography. During our 14 sessions, we will engage with the greater methodological reasoning; study fieldwork practices, and; discuss the evaluative standards for good ethnographic research. To help us do this, we will read and discuss various ethnographic journal articles, and engage in writing ethnographically, ourselves.


  1. Introduction.
  2. Ethnographies in Political Science Research.
  3. On Understanding and Meaning-Making.
  4. Deciding on Fieldwork.
  5. Facing Challenges in the Field.
  6. Hands-On I: Legwork – From Thought to Action.
  7. Considering Ethics.
  8. Positioning in the Field.
  9. Hands-On II: Deskwork – From Notes to Text.
  10. Establishing Quality.
  11. Reading Ethnographies.
  12. Writing Ethnographies.
  13. Hands-On III: Textwork – From Writing to Reading.
  14. New Directions in Ethnographic Research.  



Bachelor student (2012 programme curriculum): 10 ECTS

Bachelor student (2017 programme curriculum): 7.5 ECTS

Master student: 7.5 ECTS

Learning outcome

At the end of the course the student should be able to:



  • Describe the purpose of applying ethnography as research method.
  • Present the underlying methodological and epistemological considerations inherent in ethnographic research.
  • Identify and elaborate on the various ethical implications of conducting fieldwork.



  • Devise and design a fieldwork strategy, applicable to the student's current/future research project.
  • Conduct a “pilot study” in accordance with the aforementioned fieldwork strategy, and organize the fieldwork materials (notes, documents, interviews…).
  • Write up an ethnography based on the pilot study.



  • Critically evaluate the quality of the fieldwork material, and reflect on the fieldwork by composing a fieldwork report.
  • Relate the report to the greater theoretical and practical implications of doing ethnographic research.

This course combines lectures and student participation, such as class discussions, break-out sessions, small group exercises, and short oral presentations.
Given the practical nature of teaching ethnography as a craft, the course relies heavily on cooperative learning and students should engage actively in both class discussions and exercises.
In particular, the three “hands-on” lectures (6, 9, 13) are dedicated to practical exercises, serving the purpose of matching words with deeds that is theory with practice.

The reading list is composed by journal articles from Political Research Quarterly, Qualitative Research, Ethnography, Organization Studies etc., and by chapters from among others:


Schatz (ed.), 2009, Political Ethnography: What Immersion Contributes to the Study of Power, University of Chicago Press

Yanow & Schwatz-Shea (eds), 2006, Interpretation and Method: Empirical Research Methods and the Interpretive Turn, E.M. Sharpe

Seale, 1999, The Quality of Qualitative Research, SAGE

This seminar is offered to MSc-level students, only. To ensure common grounds and overall conducive teaching, students should have a clear intention of applying ethnography in their thesis or in another upcoming academic assignment.

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)

Upon request the teacher can provide a short oral feedback of the individual exam assignment (upon grading).

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Free assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assessment
  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • English
  • 28